As DNA technology and investigations identify a mounting number of wrongful convictions, the urgency to find such cases is increasing, USA Today reports. From Virginia to California, local prosecutors, law students, and defense attorneys are combing through hundreds of thousands of old files in search of flawed convictions. Two new clearances marked the first time post-conviction DNA testing had led to an exoneration in Mississippi, one of eight states that does not have a law allowing for such testing. Lawyers with the Innocence Project pushed the state to move forward with the testing.
Among efforts to ferret out the wrongfully convicted: Virginia officials are conducting a sweeping examination of more than 534,000 files, the largest such review in U.S. history. Three years and five exonerations after the effort began, authorities have identified 2,215 more cases they say are worthy of scrutiny. A team of attorneys and law students at California Western Law School fields up to 1,000 inmate requests for help each year. In Arizona, volunteer lawyers, law students, and investigators have screened more than 2,500 cases in the past decade and secured one exoneration. n what may be the most aggressive move by a local prosecutor, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has turned over more than 400 files to law students working for the Innocence Project of Texas. The students are reviewing decisions by previous administrations to reject requests for DNA testing. In many places, a review of convictions such as that in Dallas’ is not possible because physical evidence has not been preserved. The lack of uniform preservation standards is a big concern among advocates for post-conviction challenges.